Coming off two narrow losses, the Sealy Tigers football team knew a win over the Stafford Spartans would keep their playoff hopes alive. The Tigers managed to do just that beating the Spartans 43-7 to go to 4-3 on the season with a 2-2 district record.
With the temperature near 40 degrees with high winds, the Tigers got off to a hot start scoring on their second possession of the game. The drive was pushed forward by receiver Clay Roberts taking a slant pass 24 yards to midfield then two catches by senior Justin Eckhardt including a leaping touchdown reception.
“[Eckhardt] saves me all the time, it’s just so much fun to play with him,” junior quarterback Garret Zaskoda said.
Eckhardt took a direct snap and passed it to Jared Kainer for a successful two-point conversion to put the Tigers up 8-0. The Tigers would score again with just over a minute left in the first quarter after Tyrek McNeese broke a tackle off a reception to put the Tigers up 15-0.
Zaskoda and Roberts connected three times on the team’s first drive of the second quarter including a 22-yard touchdown catch to put the Tigers up 22-0.
Stafford had the ball on their own 25-yard line when safety Rory Strong nearly picked off a pass by Stafford. Senior quarterback Walter White was intercepted by senior Justin Eckhardt to give Sealy the ball at the Spartans’ 30-yard line.
It was the story of the night for the Tigers as the defense shut down the run on all fronts forcing Stafford to abandon the style on which their entire system was based on. The Spartans passing attack proved to be equally inept throughout the night as well.
“The kids didn’t have any lack of confidence so they knew it was going to be a dogfight,” Head Coach Shane Mobley said. “We knew we had to stop the run and we knew the right people to pinpoint on their team and the defense just did a good job executing.”
The Eckhardt interception led to a touchdown run by Ivan Bolden from the three-yard line to put the Tigers up 29-0 with 5:25 left in the half. The Spartans would go three-and-out yet again and Eckhardt made his second touchdown catch of the night to go up 36-0.
The Tigers put in the second team offense and defense to start the second half yet not much changed defensively. The Spartans would score their lone touchdown off an outside run by junior running back Tu’Shawn Wilson.
The offense would answer in the fourth quarter after a fumble recovery by Hunter Clarke gave the second-team offense the ball at the Stafford 20-yard line. Just a few plays later, backup quarterback Reece Novicke would score the final touchdown of the night and a nine-yard keeper.
Zaskoda finished the night with 286 yards and four touchdowns with no turnovers while Eckhardt finished with two touchdown catches and 126 yards. Mobley said he was glad to see Zaskoda living up to his potential.
“He’s been on the brink and every game he’s just getting better and better,” Mobley said. “Being able to develop to that level is huge.”
The Tigers have two more games left in the season with the team currently tied for fourth in the district with Bay City. That tie places even more importance on the Tigers next game as Sealy will take on Bay City on the road. For Zaskoda, keeping the team in the playoff hunt is something he wants to do for the seniors.
“I just want to keep it going all the way through the district and hopefully the playoffs because we just don’t it to end,” Zaskoda said. “It’s going to be tough when we have to say goodbye to the seniors so we want to keep it going for as long as we can.”
The Tigers are traveling on the road against Bay City on Nov. 3 with kickoff scheduled for 7:30 p.m.